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This article is part of the Research Topic

International Symposium on Performance Science 2017

Original Research ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00071

Engaging with Contemporary Dance: What can body movements tell us about audience responses?

  • 1School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science, Queen Mary University of London, United Kingdom

3 In live performances seated audiences have restricted opportunities for response. Some
4 responses are obvious, such as applause and cheering, but there are also many apparently
5 incidental movements including posture shifts, fixing hair, scratching and adjusting glasses.
6 Do these movements provide clues to people’s level of engagement with a performance? Our
7 basic hypothesis is that audience responses are part of a bi-directional system of audience-
8 performer communication. This communication is part of what distinguishes live from recorded
9 performance and underpins live performers’ moment-to-moment sense of how well a performance
10 is going. Here we investigate the range of visible real-time movements of audiences in four live
11 contemporary dance performances. Video recordings of performers and audiences were analysed
12 using computer vision techniques for extracting face, hand and body movement data. The
13 meaning of audience movements were analysed by comparing clips of the audience at moments
14 of maximum and minimum movement to expert and novice judges. The results show that audience
15 clips with the lowest overall movement are judged as displaying the highest engagement. In
16 addition, we found that while there is no systematic relationship between audience and dancers
17 movement, hands seem to play an especially significant role since they move significantly more
18 compared to the rest of the body. We draw on these findings to argue that collective stillness is
19 an especially salient signal of audience engagement.

Keywords: audience, engagement, motion tracking, Movement, Contemporary dance

Received: 28 Feb 2018; Accepted: 10 Jan 2019.

Edited by:

Emma Redding, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, United Kingdom

Reviewed by:

Staci A. Vicary, Australian College of Applied Psychology, Australia
Alexander Refsum Jensenius, University of Oslo, Norway  

Copyright: © 2019 Theodorou, Healey and Smeraldi. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Ms. Lida Theodorou, Queen Mary University of London, School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science, London, E1 4FZ, United Kingdom,